Gun violence has been an issue in the United States for decades, and in the wake of the very tragic Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, the gun control debate has never been fiercer. But it isn’t as simple as “those who want guns” versus “those who don’t want guns.” For us to understand this debate, we must look further into the situation, and comprehend why each side is saying what they are saying.
For starters, we must look at why guns are such a large issue in the United States. Guns have been part of our culture for hundreds of years. They’re even included in our Bill of Rights, which makes us only one of two countries in the world that include guns in our Bill of Rights. The American people have had the “right to bear arms, being necessary to the security of a free state” since 1791. “The Second Amendment has no limits,” says radio host and super strict interpreter of the Constitution Alex Jones on his website, Infowars.com, “the founding fathers did not ratify it so we could go duck hunting. They ratified it because we had just rebelled and overcame a police state, and the founding fathers wanted to make sure that America would never be that way again. The Second Amendment is in place for citizens to protect themselves against a potentially tyrannical government.” Alex Jones is just one of millions of Americans who hold their Second Amendment right as dear to their lives as any other amendment, and see it as an important factor in their rights as Americans. Guns have been engraved in American culture since the 18th century: which means gun control activists have their work cut out for them.
According to data collected by the Small Arms Survey in September 2011, there are currently over 270 million firearms in the hands of American civilians (enough for over 87% of the U.S. population to own at least one firearm). Each year, approximately 4.5 million firearms are sold in the United States. It is because of these statistics that America has taken gold in the “Highest Gun Ownership Rate” category. And it wasn’t a tight race for first place in that category either: the second place competition, Yemen, only has 11 million firearms circulating through the hands of its civilians. Moving on to gun violence, more than 30,000 people die each year via firearm in the U.S, and more than 30 people are shot and murdered every day.
Those who support gun control have been using these statistics as of late and have been comparing them to the statistics coming out of the United Kingdom and other parts of the world with very strict gun laws in an attempt to show how well they work. In Australia on April 28, 1996, the “Port Arthur massacre,” carried out with a firearm, ended the lives of thirty-five people. Following that tragedy were a series of very strict gun bans, and ever since these bans were passed, Australia has enjoyed record low amounts of murders per year. Statistics coming out of England show only an estimated 39 deaths caused by a firearm per year. Gun control supporters have also brought up how easy it is for an American citizen to obtain a firearm. In many states, it is possible for you to purchase an M&P15-22 semi-automatic rifle at your local Walmart. Meanwhile in Wales, the gun control laws are so strict even their Olympic shooting team has to leave the country to practice.
So what’s the debate? The statistics show that countries that have enacted gun control laws have significantly decreased in gun violence. Guns and access to guns must be the problem, right? That’s not what the National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre says. At one the first press conferences held by the NRA after the Sandy Hook shooting, LaPierre put the blame on “video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out.” He also claimed that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” calling for armed cops at every school in America, in order to prevent senseless tragedies like the Newtown shooting from ever happening again. Another argument the National Rifle Association (and many other members of the opposition to gun control) has used is that it’s not the guns that kill people…but the people that kill people. Blame has been put on the mental health system in the United States. Critics of gun rules that mental health resources might be more effective than gun laws that can be ignored by criminals or the mentally ill. Alex Jones has also noted multiple times on his radio show that, since the series of gun bans Europe enacted fifteen years ago, the overall violent crime rate in the United Kingdom has tripled, including tens of thousands murders via knife.
Whether you believe in the ban of all firearms, the ban of just semi-automatic rifles, improvement in the mental health system, or that guns shouldn’t be touched at all, every reader must agree that shootings like Sandy Hook, shootings that take the lives of twenty children, cannot repeat themselves. Some sort of action must be taken sooner rather than later.